Importance of Newsletters

And dipping your feet in hot water.

The second week of 2021 is already gone, and for me, it has been an action-pack, fast-paced, and productive week. Usually, my mood depends upon how many items I have been able to tick off from my To-Do list. Lately, there have been many, so I am quite upbeat.

What will make me really happy is to keep my To-Do list short. I have bought a shiny, brand new, $3.50 student diary with a week to page. It has just six lines per day. I intend to keep my To-Do list limited to six tasks a day.

This is my promise to myself. Just do six tasks a day and dip my feet in hot water at the end of the day.

Please keep me accountable by asking me throughout the year how I am going.

Authorpreneur Journey Step 4

Start a newsletter.

That is right. You got to start as early as possible to collect the email addresses of those who like your work and want to stay in contact. Social media will not achieve what newsletters can. Even though you and I complain a lot about the flood of emails we receive every day, we feel miserable when we get none.

Believe me; I have experienced that first hand.

I unsubscribed from all the newsletters thinking I am going to keep my inbox clean and save hours. Within a few days, I started feeling unloved.

Newsletters are an essential part of our lives these days. Let’s accept that. Of all the recent communication tools, emails have not only survived but thrived. Just like we live without a mobile phone, we can’t live without emails.

That is the kind of power you have when you have permission from someone to send them an email. Power to contact them at a personal level. Power to make them feel loved.

(At this point, I want to take a moment to thank you, readers, for permitting me to write to you directly. Please rest assured that I will not abuse this privilege in any way or form.)

How to start a newsletter?

There are many ways.

  1. For newstarters, the Newsletter plugin could be a great starting point. It is free, has full integration, statistics, and a ready-made subscription form. It is a full-scale email distribution service. Just install the plugin on your website and automate your newsletter.

  2. For those of you who have been writing on your website for some time and want to build your subscriber numbers, several paid email distribution services are available. Some of them free up to a certain number of subscribers with limited functionality. MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers, while Convertkit is free for up to 1000. Most writers prefer Conbertkit, which is easier to use and have better automation and segmented list management. Mailerlite is another player that is free for up to 1000 subscribers and has better prices than both MailChimp and Convertkit. You can do your research and pick one, keeping in mind that when your list grows in thousands, it is very troublesome to move between providers.

  3. And now there is another choice. Substack. Substack is not like a paid email distribution service like the three I mentioned above but a platform where you can run your newsletter and get paid for it. It is free if your newsletter is free. But if you are charging a subscription fee, the Substack will take a 10% cut.

I started with the Newsletter plugin and moved to MailChimp when my subscriber numbers started growing. But then I found Substack. I like their model and their interface. It is straightforward to use. As it is new and growing fast, they are providing a lot of assistance and encouragement.

Substack is sufficient for my needs at the moment. In the future, if I need to use some advanced email distribution features, I might consider using Convertkit.

Point to Note: These are just my opinions. I do not get paid by any of these providers.

Your homework this week:

Pick an email distribution service or a plugin and install it. Invite a few family and friends to subscribe to your newsletter.

Writing Industry News

  • Substack had its first writer conference. It was a virtual conference, free but packed with lots of value. I want to use this section to talk about what I learned about substack in general, which I think is very important for new writers to know.

  • Substack is not just a newsletter service but a platform, more like Medium. It is often compared to social media such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, all of which also host “user-generated content.” But it is very different from social media. The two main differences are:

    a) Social media platforms dictate to a large extent what users see. The content that appears in these feeds is filtered and ordered by algorithms that have been designed to maximize engagement. But with Substack, readers choose what they see. A reader decides which writers to invite into their inboxes and which ones to support with money.

    b) On Substack, writers are paid directly by readers. All of the big social media companies make their money from advertising, which means they compete to dominate the reader’s attention.

    Substack’s key metric is not engagement. Their key metric is writer revenue. They make money only when writers make money. With subscriptions, writers can only make money when they provide value to their readers. It is a model where everybody wins. Readers win because they get to choose what to pay for and get value for their money. Writers get direct access to their readers and get paid for their work. Substack gets paid when writers grow their subscriber base. It is a win-win for everyone.

Why are newsletters so important?

“Newsletters retain some of the intimacy of the early digital-media days, when online writing felt less polished, more vital.” —  Vanity Fair.

I think we are turning a corner with free content on the internet. For some time, while the internet was coming of age, the readers got used to expecting free content. But just like free TV, internet content is also becoming subscription-based. And Newsletter is one of the ways good content will be delivered to readers.

Behind this, there are two driving forces.

1) Readers. Readers want to choose what they want to read, not what social media or other content generating companies push at them.

2) Writers. Writers, bloggers, thinkers, and creatives of every background should be able to pursue their curiosity, generating income directly from their own audiences and on their own terms.

When readers pay writers directly, writers can focus on doing the work they care about most. A few hundred paying subscribers can support a livelihood. A few thousand makes it lucrative.

Readers win, too. By opting into direct relationships with writers, we can be more selective with how we consume information, honing in on the ideas, people, and places we find most meaningful.

“Individual writers and publications are returning to newsletters to make money directly from their audiences.”— Buzzfeed.

What Am I Up to?

  • This week I started a magazine, Authorpreneurs on Medium. It is dedicated to publishing articles to help writers become authorpreneurs. You can read more about it in Authorpreneur — A New Publication For Writers, and if you are interested to write for it, here are some guidelines.

  • I am looking at starting a paid component of A Whimsical Writer newsletter. It will have a slightly different format where I will cover one single topic in detail. For example, I am thinking of doing one on templates for article writing. It will be like a mini-course. I aim to have at least two issues a week as paid issues. I am still figuring it out, so please bear with me. I am mentioning it here so that I don’t catch you by surprise. You do not have to buy the paid issues. I will continue to provide value through free issues.

What Intrigued Me This Week?

Oliver Burkemen opened his newsletter with this paragraph.

“Back in 2001, when David Allen published the groundbreaking productivity book Getting Things Done, he coined the "two-minute rule": if you encounter a task that would take under two minutes to complete, just do it now. He wasn't recommending that you spend your days ricocheting between random little activities the moment they pop into your head. His point was that anyone who takes a systematic approach to manage their time – with some combination of to-do lists, plans, schedules, and so on – inevitably incurs overheads. Those lists and plans take time and effort, and for some smaller tasks, it's simply not worth it. By the time you've "clarified the next action” or made an entry on a list, or scheduled a time to focus on it, you could have just done the thing.”

Then halfway through the newsletter, he listed several rules which have been around.

  • Mel Robbins's "five-second rule" is a related way to spur yourself to action.

  • James Clear's "two-minute rule" is different from David Allen's, but a handy reminder about the power of tiny steps toward big habit changes.

  • And the "three-bite rule" is a way to get kids to try new foods that so far hasn't worked with my (Oliver’s) son.

These rules intrigued me. How many of these time-based rules were there. I found quite a few.

  • Two-second rule to maintain a safe trailing distance at any speed.

  • The four-second rule is the minimum distance you should travel behind the vehicle immediately in adverse weather conditions such as rain or fog.

  • The five-second rule to eat if you pick it up in 5 seconds or less.

  • FIFA’s six-second rule is that a goalkeeper cannot keep control of the ball in his hands for more than six seconds.

  • The seven-second rule states that a criminal decides in just seven seconds if you will be their next victim.

  • The seventeen-second rule of thought manifestation. Hold a thought for seventeen seconds to you, set in motion its manifestation.

  • The twenty-second rule to make new habits that stick.

Then there is the twenty-second insane courage rule from the ‘We Bought a Zoo’ movie.

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo.

That’s it from me this week.

Take care.

Neera Mahajan